By Marilynn Preston
It’s summer. Yippee. Run to the hammock and let’s play a game. I want you to lie back and relax into thinking about something you want to accomplish this summer. Here’s the sentence. Fill in the blank:
“This is the summer I want to …”
What? Name your heart’s desire. Keep it clean. Think about your own well-being.
Want to run a 10k? (Great for the body.)
Learn to play guitar? (Good for the brain.)
Meditate for 15 minutes a day? (Marvelous for equanimity and everything else.)
You know my theory: When the seasons change, so can we. In summer especially, we tend to take more time for ourselves, play more and have more fun. If you’re ready this summer, you can create new habits and attitudes that make your life richer and riper.
Below, I’ve listed seven. Find a few that speak to you and make them happen. Small changes bring big rewards. Who said that? I did, I do, I will, over and over:
1. MEATLESS MONDAYS. This summer, join the trend to cut back or eliminate red meat in your diet. A Monday without burgers means you can enjoy forms of protein that aren’t tainted with hormones or antibiotics. I’m talking beans, nuts, cheeses. This Monday, I’m making myself giant white beans sprinkled with feta, toasted pine nuts and fresh basil. I’ll probably add some Sriracha sauce, but that’s just me. Once you get the hang of meatless Mondays, you can move on to farmers market Fridays, when you sustain yourself with fresh summer vegetables and fruits bought locally and cooked in your own kitchen.
2. WALK OR BIKE MORE. Figure out ways to drive your car less this summer — good for the planet, very good for the heart. Just for fun (and to help create a new habit), keep track of your mileage in a journal. Ride your bike to work, to shop, to school. If wearing a pedometer steps up your activity level, get a good one and wear it with pride all summer. Yes, working walks and bike rides into your daily life takes planning and courage, but you can do it, if you want to. If you don’t want to, please stop complaining about how tight your jeans are.
3. PLANT YOURSELF AT THE FARMERS MARKET. Good food is real food, the kind your local farmers bring to market all summer long. Tomatoes, corn, beans, melons, plums and peaches — whatever is fresh and local is what you want to buy and savor. Processed food — the fake foods that come wrapped in plastic or packaged in bags — aren’t exactly poison, but it’s good to think of them that way because they are toxic and will, over time, gunk up your system.
4. GO NATURAL. Summer’s the perfect time to venture outdoors and discover why spending time in nature is so healing. Go camping, hike in the woods, paddle a canoe, catch and release a fish or just sit under a tree and read Rumi. It’s not what you do; it’s where you are and what happens when you’re there. Slow down. Listen. Breathe. Experiment with boredom. Time in nature is transformative. You won’t know how or why until you’re completely out of range of a cellphone signal.
5. DO UNTO OTHERS. Doing good and feeling well go hand in hand. Spend some time this summer helping others. Donate time or money to a charity run, volunteer at a community garden or find a family that needs some groceries to get them through the week. Suffering is all around us. When you pitch in, you experience joy. That’s what gratitude feels like.
6. LEARN SOMETHING NEW. Use these long summer days and delicious nights to sprout new synapses. We now know our brains thrive on new patterns, new connections, new ways of thinking and doing. Learn to play tennis. Study qi gong with a master. Take your first tango lesson. Summer is made for new adventures. Decide today; sign up tomorrow.
7. PLAN NO PLAN. It’s hard, but someone has to do it. This summer, be the person who sets aside some time to do nothing at all. That’s what leaves you free to be seduced by the moment. Next thing you know you’re eating a buttery ear of just-picked corn. Ahh … Summer’s perfect for that.
– Marilynn Preston is the author of “Energy Express,” America’s longest-running healthy lifestyle column. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.